Aug 16, 2016 9:25 AM

Cannabis and Anorexia: Can Pot Help?

Since medical marijuana is legalized in many states, scientists are doing their best to find out the answers to such questions as “Does marijuana help diabetes?”, “Can weed help anorexia?”, and many others. Today, we will find out whether anorexia can be treated with marijuana.

It is a well-known fact that cannabis stimulates appetite. However, anorexia is not only the problem of appetite. So what is anorexia?

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating and psychological disorder that threatens the life and health of a patient. This disease is characterized by a very low body weight compared to BMI (Body Mass Index), fear of weight gain, extreme and needless weight loss, and false perception of self-image.

Anorexia affects both women and men. Nevertheless, women suffer from this disease more often. While it is known that anorexia is mainly a psychological condition, physiology is very important here too. Magazines and TV create unrealistic standards of beauty; the majority of youth desperately want to meet them but keep failing.

There are also other important factors that may contribute to anorexia, like genetics, life stresses or trauma, mental and behavioral conditions.

Anorexia and Endocannabinoid System

Anorexia is also characterized by some physical changes in the patient’s brain. Moreover, this disorder also affects the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors spread throughout our entire body. It controls some of our most vital functions, such as the immune system, memory, appetite, sleep pattern, mood, and pain sensation. The use of cannabis makes its main psychoactive component, which is called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), engage with the ECS and take the place of the compounds that are produced by our own body, which are called endocannabinoids.

For instance, when it comes to weed and diabetes, studies show that marijuana use in animals helps restore brain levels of endocannabinoids. It affects emotions and behavior and enhances the feelings of well-being.

A 2012 research showed that patients who had anorexia suffered from a functional impairment of the endocannabinoid system. Furthermore, a 2011 research found that anorexia and bulimia could make the endocannabinoid system underactive. It may result in lack of positive emotions, loss of appetite, and negative body perception.

The 2014 animal studies also showed that anorexia might lead to endocannabinoid dysfunction. However, it is still unknown if this dysfunction contributes to anorexia or occurs because of it. Nevertheless, cannabis may help the condition in both cases.

How Can Cannabis Help?

Marijuana is able to fight even such serious diseases as anorexia and diabetes. According to a 2002 study, consumption of cannabis helped a group of patients with Alzheimer's who were refusing to eat.

The first and main advantage of cannabis is its ability to stimulate appetite. It starts the metabolism and causes a surge of ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry. Moreover, there is an important difference between ghrelin in people who do not use marijuana and those who do. While non-users are able to ignore hunger pains, marijuana users who have a surge of a cannabis-induced ghrelin think only about food until they get it.

Secondly, marijuana strains will help you remember or find out how pleasant the process of eating actually is. Weed gives you a boost of dopamine, which is the main neurotransmitter that makes you feel pleased and rewarded. Naturally, dopamine rises when we eat to make us feel pleased. Marijuana increases this feeling severalfold. Something that you liked before will taste even better, while something you did not even like will taste rather good.

The third reason why marijuana is an effective anorexia treatment is that it helps you relax and forget about problems. It is also able to change your mood or even make you focused on something really important.

Sometimes, however, anorexia has some associated conditions, such as bipolar disorder, addiction, depression, and others. In this case, the disease is not connected with food directly. Nevertheless, it has been found that cannabis can relieve these symptoms as well.

Auxiliary Treatment

It is obvious that such serious disorder as anorexia cannot be treated only with cannabis. While marijuana helps patients relax and eat, the main problem is still somewhere deep in their minds. That is why it is better to try some auxiliary actions, such as meditation. It can help you find out what you think and feel. Meditation also trains your brain and changes your perception of your body.

Patients who suffer from anorexia can also try life or recovery coaching, as well as consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist. However, the main additional tool here is surrounding yourself with positive things. It is better to turn to some body-positive media and always remember that not everything we see on TV screens or pages of fashion magazines is real.

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